N26 faces criticism regarding its identification processes

Fintech startup N26 is growing quite rapidly. Building a startup is hard, but building a startup that manages your bank account is even harder given the increased scrutiny. German weekly magazine Wirtschaftswoche published an article that questioned N26’s identification processes. According to Wirtschaftswoche, it’s quite easy to create an account with a fake ID document. […]

Fintech startup N26 is growing quite rapidly. Building a startup is hard, but building a startup that manages your bank account is even harder given the increased scrutiny. German weekly magazine Wirtschaftswoche published an article that questioned N26’s identification processes. According to Wirtschaftswoche, it’s quite easy to create an account with a fake ID document.

“One or two people got through with a fake ID document. And we detected that afterward. Unfortunately, we didn't detect it in real time,” co-founder and CEO Valentin Stalf told me. “Unfortunately, it can happen.”

But Stalf also insisted that it’s not a widespread problem and that all banks face the same issue. According to him, N26 complies with all regulations when it comes to onboarding.

Currently, N26 has three different procedures depending on the country and works with a third-party company called SafeNed for some of the verification procedures.

In many countries, you can initiate a video call with someone so that they can check your ID and compare it with your face. In Germany, you can also print a document, go to the post office with an ID document and make a post employee check that you are actually you.

In some countries, you can open an N26 account by uploading a photo of your ID document and a selfie. Other banks also take advantage of this procedure. For instance, it’s a common process in the U.K.

More generally, other banks also have to deal with fake ID documents. But security is never perfect. That’s why you can’t simply eradicate the issue. You can try to keep the fake ID rate as low as possible.

“Security is our top priority at N26, which is why secure identification processes and constant review of our security and monitoring mechanisms to prevent identity theft are of great importance to the company,” the company told me in a statement.

In other words, N26 monitors this fake ID rate. And N26 also has ongoing transaction monitoring for those who have already opened a bank account. The company tries to detect fraudulent activity as quickly as possible.

You might think that uploading a photo of your ID document leads to more fraudulent activity. But N26 has noticed that there’s a higher fraud rate for customers who go to the post office to check their ID document.

So fraud is nothing new in the banking industry. Nobody has eradicated fraud, and nobody will. In fact, many startups (such as DreamQuark) are working on improving fraud detection using machine learning and more sophisticated processes. But even artificial intelligence won’t solve this problem altogether.

All eyes are on N26 because it’s the hot new thing. But if you look at what’s happening, it’s a pretty boring story. “In one of the articles they said we used weaker method to grow faster. This is complete bullshit,” Stalf told me.

This story is a great example that it can be tough to manage your startup’s reputation. Building trust takes a long time. But it can go away much more quickly. That might be why N26 debunked the issue so intensely.

Here’s N26’s full statement:

Security is our top priority at N26, which is why secure identification processes and constant review of our security and monitoring mechanisms to prevent identity theft are of great importance to the company.

After the customer’s identity is verified, we carry out ongoing transaction monitoring along with numerous other security measures, in a bid to prevent criminal activity such as money laundering and terrorist financing.

We therefore take the findings put forward by Wirtschaftswoche very seriously, will analyse the facts and take appropriate measures if necessary.

Contrary to the statement in Wirtschaftswoche, the use of photo verification by N26 is legally compliant. N26 works with a regulated payment service provider, SafeNed, in this regard. SafeNed is a UK business which is authorised and regulated by the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) with regards to the prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing. SafeNed verifies its customers using the Photo Ident process, which is compliant with UK law.

According to the German Money Laundering Act, N26 is allowed to use a third party regulated in the EU, in this case a payment service provider in the UK, for the verification of customers (Section 17 (1) GwG). The respective verification procedure is then determined by the law applicable to the third party (in the above example, therefore, by UK law). This understanding is also confirmed by BaFin in its interpretation and application notes on the German Money Laundering Act (p. 67 et seq.) for customers not resident in Germany.

Flutterwave and Ventures Platform CEOs will join us at Startup Battlefield Africa

Startup Battlefield is returning to Africa this December. TechCrunch will be hitting Lagos, Nigeria, bringing with it our Battlefield competition and a day’s worth of panel discussions, focused on topics facing the city’s startup scene. We’ve already announced a pair of speakers for the event and and are excited to add a couple more to […]

Startup Battlefield is returning to Africa this December. TechCrunch will be hitting Lagos, Nigeria, bringing with it our Battlefield competition and a day’s worth of panel discussions, focused on topics facing the city’s startup scene.

Iyin “E” Aboyeji

We’ve already announced a pair of speakers for the event and and are excited to add a couple more to the list, bringing with them expertise on topics like VC funding and blockchain technology.

Iyin “E” Aboyeji is the Founder and CEO of Flutterwave, a payment solution designed to transfer funds between Africa and abroad. The Lagos-based startup serves as a payment gateway for a number of high profile companies including Uber, TransferWise, booking.com and tuition platform, Flywire.

In July of this year, Flutterwave rasied a $10 million Series A led by Greycroft Partners and Green Visor Capital.

Other investors include Y Combinator, Omidyar Network, Social Capital, CRE Venture Capital and HOF Capital. Aboyeji will join us to discuss the potential of blockchain tech in Africa’s burgeoning startup scenes.

Kola Aina

Kola Aina is the CEO and founder of Ventures Platform, a Lagos-based VC firm focused on Africa. VP is among the largest accelerator/seed stage funders in the space with an eye toward solving local issues. In addition to serving as a Partner at the fund, Aina is also a mentor at World Bank Group and Google’s Launchpad Accelerator.

We’ve got plenty more speakers to announce in the coming weeks. You can grab your tickets to the event here.

N26 is launching its bank in the UK

Nearly a year after German fintech startup N26 announced that it would launch its service in the U.K., the company is launching in the U.K. N26 is already quite popular in the Eurozone, with more than 1.5 million customers. In this new market, it will face tough competition from existing players, such as Revolut, Monzo, […]

Nearly a year after German fintech startup N26 announced that it would launch its service in the U.K., the company is launching in the U.K. N26 is already quite popular in the Eurozone, with more than 1.5 million customers. In this new market, it will face tough competition from existing players, such as Revolut, Monzo, Starling and many others.

N26 is going to roll out its product in multiple phases. Some lucky few will be able to open an account right away. The startup will then go through its waiting list — 50,000 people already left their email addresses to express interest. After that, anybody will be able to download the app and sign up.

This might sound like a convoluted process, but N26 expects a full public launch in just a few weeks. So it should be quite quick if everything goes as planned.

So what can you expect exactly? British customers will get all the basic N26 stuff with one killer feature — U.K. account numbers and sort codes. This way, customers will be able to receive payments and share banking information with their utility providers just like they would with a regular Barclays or Lloyds account.

When you open an N26 account, you get a true bank account and a MasterCard. Basic accounts are free, and N26 has a proper banking license — your deposits up to €100,000 are guaranteed by the European deposit guarantee scheme. You can then send and receive money and pay with your card. Sending money to other N26 users is instantaneous (they call it MoneyBeam).

N26 recently launched Spaces, a new feature that lets you create sub accounts and put some money aside. It’s still limited, but the company plans to add more features.

Your MasterCard works like any other challenger bank. Every time you use it, you receive a push notification. You can set payment and withdrawal limits, lock your card if you lose it and reset your PIN code. N26 will also bring Black and Metal plans to the U.K.

How does it compare to Revolut?

Let’s be honest, the elephant in the room is Revolut . The company has hundreds of thousands (if not over a million) customers in the U.K. N26 lets you do many of the things you can already do with your Revolut account.

So let me point out a few differences. As I noted, N26 has a banking license and U.K. banking information. N26 cards work in Apple Pay and Google Pay.

When it comes to international payments, N26 lets you pay with your card anywhere in the world without any additional fee. The company uses MasterCard’s conversion rates. Revolut first converts the money with its forex feature and then lets you spend your money.

There are an infinite number of forum posts about the exchange rates you’ll get. Sometimes Revolut is cheaper, sometimes N26 is cheaper. It mostly depends on the day of the week (Revolut conversion rates are more expensive on the weekend) and the currency. Unless you plan to spend tens of thousands of GBP during your vacation, you won’t see a huge difference on your bank statement.

Revolut also has many more features than N26. You can insure your phone, buy bitcoins, buy travel insurance, create virtual cards and more. It’s clear that N26 and Revolut have two different styles.

Revolut has a bigger user base than N26. But it’s always been a bit hard to compare them, as N26 wasn’t available in the U.K. Of course, they will both say there are tens of millions of people relying on old banks — multiple challenger banks can grow at the same time if they capture market share from those aging players. Still, the battle between N26 and Revolut is on.

Here are the companies that pitched in Startup Battlefield MENA

Today in lovely Beirut, Lebanon TechCrunch held its first Startup Battlefield in the country. Over 700 people watched the show on site, which featured speakers from throughout the Middle East and 15 startups competing in Startup Battlefield. A winner will be chosen at the end of the day and they will walk away with a […]

Today in lovely Beirut, Lebanon TechCrunch held its first Startup Battlefield in the country. Over 700 people watched the show on site, which featured speakers from throughout the Middle East and 15 startups competing in Startup Battlefield.

A winner will be chosen at the end of the day and they will walk away with a $25,000 prize. As of this post’s publication, a winner has not been picked.

What follows, is each company’s Startup Battlefield pitch in the order that they appeared on stage.

[Please note: Videos will be added to this list as they become available]

Startup Battlefield Competition – Flight #1

BuildInk

Real estate construction firms nowadays are struggling to keep up with the fast-moving pace of technological advancements in order to fulfill the market constantly changing demands. Buildink is offering a revolutionary solution for construction firms, via a scalable and mobile friendly Cable Robot Concrete 3D printer and Signature Concrete Mixture. Concrete 3D printing will not only open the space for unlimited architectural designs, it will also reduce the overall construction cost.

Harmonica

Harmonics is the leading marriage making app in MENA that not only match singles but also help them build healthy relationships. Launched in Cairo with a unique matching algorithm of one match at a time, powered by a strong team of phycologists, managed to reach a 100,000 user base in only few months.

Material Solved

MaterialSolved is a data visualization software for chemical/nano compounds. MaterialSolved helps scientists and scientific illustrators create complex scientific 3D models, static illustrations, and animations in an efficient way. Unlike general purpose graphics and visualization software, we use a new model that merges several algorithms to achieve significant time and cost reduction and make many visual representations possible.

MoneyFellows

MoneyFellows enables access to interest free credit and helps savers to easily reach their saving goals. We do this by digitizing the traditional ROSCA model (Rotating Savings and Credit Association).
How it works:
1- Group of people joins together to contribute a fixed monthly installment into a common pot.
2- Every month one of the users takes the whole pot as a payout.
3- Circle ends when all circle participants gets his/her payout once.
4- Circle is then usually repeated with the same group of people over again.”

Neotic AI

Neotic.ai created auto-traders for financial markets, giving the opportunity for everyone to use advanced technology to get higher returns on their savings. In other words, Neotic users can find ready to use, plug and play, live tested, AI powered trading strategies and deploy them directly on the broker account without writing any single line of code.

Startup Battlefield Competition – Flight #2

Naturansa

Naturansa produces high-quality protein from edible insect grown through pre-consumer food waste decomposition. We have built scalable technology that produces insect year-round which then get converted into a protein powder. We currently use our product in pet food market, but our target is to move into human consumption and solve major environmental problems that are present in current protein production.

IT Grapes

IT Grapes is a precision farming platform composed by an internally developed hardware for smart monitoring of environmental data and control of in-field equipment, combined with an online hub that gives access to federated data for selected actors of the agricultural sector in order to help farmers, taking the right decisions and improve the decentralized intelligence included in the in-field devices.

IN2

IN2 is a sports and activities platform that aims to streamline the activity organization process. Whether it’s fitness, sports, music, or other activities, IN2 makes planning and participating in activities a much more enjoyable experience. It does that by empowering businesses & organizers with management tools and connecting them to the relevant stakeholders

Seez

Seez is a mobile app that reduces the time people spend searching for a car from 17 hours down to a few seconds. By fully automating your search, seez uses its AI chatbot, Cesar, to scan all sites, identify the seller, and even negotiate the price down for you. This way you will see all cars for sale in your country and the final price of each car.

Autotell

AUTOTELL is revamping driving experience, Our aim is to give you the right advice at the right moment, helping you reduce consumption, get the maximum return out of your car by providing you with the remote monitoring, detecting faults on road, have an access to an automotive Eco-system and getting instant advice whenever needed through AI personal assistant 24/7.

48 hours until Startup Battlefield MENA 2018 — buy tickets today

On October 3 — a mere 48 hours from now — the Middle East and North Africa’s startup scene is in for the ride of its life. That’s when 15 of the region’s best early-stage startup founders will gather in Beirut, Lebanon to compete in TechCrunch Startup Battlefield MENA 2018. Join us to watch these […]

On October 3 — a mere 48 hours from now — the Middle East and North Africa’s startup scene is in for the ride of its life. That’s when 15 of the region’s best early-stage startup founders will gather in Beirut, Lebanon to compete in TechCrunch Startup Battlefield MENA 2018.

Join us to watch these competitors launch their startups on a global stage and hear directly from MENA’s top tech and VC leaders as they discuss the issues facing the region’s startup scene. It costs $25 + VAT to attend Startup Battlefield MENA 2018, and you can buy tickets here.

The 15 teams will each have six minutes to pitch and present a live product demo in one of three preliminary rounds. Our panel of judges consists of expert technologists and VC investors who will follow up each team’s pitch with a rigorous, six-minute Q&A.

Only five teams move to the finals to pitch again and answer more questions from a new panel of judges. One startup will emerge victorious to become the first TechCrunch Startup Battlefield MENA champion.

What’s at stake? The winning founders receive a $25,000 cash prize and a trip for two to Disrupt San Francisco in 2019 — where they get to compete in that Startup Battlefield (assuming the company still qualifies to compete at the time).

That’s a lot of action for a one-day conference, but we’re not done yet. We also have an outstanding series of speakers and workshops lined up and focused on the most pressing technology and investing trends and issues facing MENA’s startup scene.

For example, you’ll hear Mandali Khalesi, Toyota’s global head of automated driving mobility and innovation, discuss the company’s latest research findings and its plans for the region. You’ll even have a chance to offer feedback on how Toyota should develop automated driving mobility for MENA and work with entrepreneurs in the region.

You’ll also hear Paul Chucrallah (BeryTech Fund), Hussam Hammo (Tamaten) and Rami Al Qawasmi (Mawdoo3) discuss MENA’s lack of online Arabic language content for consumers — and what they’re doing to fill that void.

There’s plenty more programming on tap — check out the full agenda right here.

Only 48 hours left until TechCrunch Startup Battlefield MENA 2018 takes place in the Beirut Digital District in Lebanon on October 3. Don’t miss out on the thrilling competition, the informative discussions and the business networking opportunities. Buy your ticket today.

Hear about the keys to local investing at Startup Battlefield Africa with Omobola Johnson and Lexi Novitske

TechCrunch Startup Battlefield is returning to Africa in December, this time in Lagos, Nigeria. We will have a day-long program full of our flagship Battlefield competition highlighting the best startups that Africa has to offer. Not only that, we’ll have panel discussions designed to explore the continent’s rapidly developing technological infrastructure on the continent. To […]

Omobola Johnson (Image: Flickr/World Economic Forum under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

TechCrunch Startup Battlefield is returning to Africa in December, this time in Lagos, Nigeria. We will have a day-long program full of our flagship Battlefield competition highlighting the best startups that Africa has to offer.

Not only that, we’ll have panel discussions designed to explore the continent’s rapidly developing technological infrastructure on the continent. To wit, I’m excited to announce the first two speakers who will don our stage with direct knowledge about investing Silicon Valley money in the local ecosystem.

Omobola Johnson is a senior partner at TLcom Capital and the former minister of communication technology for Nigeria. Her vast knowledge about the startup investing landscape comes from her 25-year tenure at Accenture where she served as the managing director.

As ICT minister, she focused on the execution of the National Broadband Plan, as well as promoting government interest in local venture capital through the development of a fund and a network of startup incubators. And at Accenture, she advised numerous startups in various industries on how to become competitive and help to strengthen the tech landscape.

Lexi Novitske

Lexi Novitske is the principal investment officer for Singularity Investments where she is responsible for managing investments in the firm’s Africa portfolio.

Novitske moved to Africa from the United States, having identified a unique approach to providing African startups with the capital necessary to thrive. Big surprise: It’s not just about writing a check and hoping for returns. It’s about understanding the complexities of the environment, modifying Western attitudes about business and working hard with your companies to ensure the best outcomes.

Johnson and Novitske are just the beginning of what we have to offer at Battlefield Africa technology. Stay tuned for more announcements of great speakers and get your tickets before they sell out.

And the winner of Startup Battlefield at Disrupt SF 2018 is… Forethought

Startups participating in the Startup Battlefield have all been hand-picked to participate in our highly competitive startup competition. They all presented in front of multiple groups of VCs and tech leaders serving as judges for a chance to win $50,000 and the coveted Disrupt Cup. After hours of deliberations, TechCrunch editors pored over the judges’ […]

At the very beginning, there were 21 startups. After three days of incredibly fierce competition, we now have a winner.

Startups participating in the Startup Battlefield have all been hand-picked to participate in our highly competitive startup competition. They all presented in front of multiple groups of VCs and tech leaders serving as judges for a chance to win $50,000 and the coveted Disrupt Cup.

After hours of deliberations, TechCrunch editors pored over the judges’ notes and narrowed the list down to five finalists: CB Therapeutics, Forethought, Mira, Origami Labs and Unbound.

These startups made their way to the finale to demo in front of our final panel of judges, which included: Cyan Banister (Founders Fund), Roelof Botha (Sequoia Capital), Jeff Clavier (Uncork Capital), Kirsten Green (Forerunner Ventures), Aileen Lee (Cowboy Ventures) and Matthew Panzarino (TechCrunch).

And now, meet the Startup Battlefield winner of TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018.

Winner: Forethought

Forethought has a modern vision for enterprise search that uses AI to surface the content that matters most in the context of work. Its first use case involves customer service, but it has a broader ambition to work across the enterprise.

Read more about Forethought in our separate post.

Runner-Up: Unbound

Unbound makes fashion-forward vibrators, and their latest is the Palma. The new device masquerades as a ring, offers multiple speeds, and is completely waterproof. And the team plans to add accelerometer features.

Read more about Unbound in our separate post.

Vtrus launches drones to inspect and protect your warehouses and factories

Knowing what’s going on in your warehouses and facilities is of course critical to many industries, but regular inspections take time, money, and personnel. Why not use drones? Vtrus uses computer vision to let a compact drone not just safely navigate indoor environments but create detailed 3D maps of them for inspectors and workers to consult, autonomously and in real time.

Knowing what’s going on in your warehouses and facilities is of course critical to many industries, but regular inspections take time, money, and personnel. Why not use drones? Vtrus uses computer vision to let a compact drone not just safely navigate indoor environments but create detailed 3D maps of them for inspectors and workers to consult, autonomously and in real time.

Vtrus showed off its hardware platform — currently a prototype — and its proprietary SLAM (simultaneous location and mapping) software at TechCrunch Disrupt SF as a Startup Battlefield Wildcard company.

There are already some drone-based services for the likes of security and exterior imaging, but Vtrus CTO Jonathan Lenoff told me that those are only practical because they operate with a large margin for error. If you’re searching for open doors or intruders beyond the fence, it doesn’t matter if you’re at 25 feet up or 26. But inside a warehouse or production line every inch counts and imaging has to be carried out at a much finer scale.

As a result, dangerous and tedious inspections, such as checking the wiring on lighting or looking for rust under an elevated walkway, have to be done by people. Vtrus wouldn’t put those people out of work, but it might take them out of danger.

The drone uses depth-sensing both to build the map and to navigate and avoid obstacles.

The drone, called the ABI Zero for now, is equipped with a suite of sensors, from ordinary RGB cameras to 360 ones and a structured-light depth sensor. As soon as it takes off, it begins mapping its environment in great detail: it takes in 300,000 depth points 30 times per second, combining that with its other cameras to produce a detailed map of its surroundings.

It uses this information to get around, of course, but the data is also streamed over wi-fi in real time to the base station and Vtrus’s own cloud service, through which operators and inspectors can access it.

The SLAM technique they use was developed in-house; CEO Renato Moreno built and sold a company (to Facebook/Oculus) using some of the principles, but improvements to imaging and processing power have made it possible to do it faster and in greater detail than before. Not to mention on a drone that’s flying around an indoor space full of people and valuable inventory.

On a full charge, ABI can fly for about 10 minutes. That doesn’t sound very impressive, but the important thing isn’t staying aloft for a long time — few drones can do that to begin with — but how quickly it can get back up there. That’s where the special docking and charging mechanism comes in.

The Vtrus drone lives on and returns to a little box, which when a tapped-out craft touches down, sets off a patented high-speed charging process. It’s contact-based, not wireless, and happens automatically. The drone can then get back in the air perhaps half an hour or so later, meaning the craft can actually be in the air for as much as six hours a day total.

Probably anyone who has had to inspect or maintain any kind of building or space bigger than a studio apartment can see the value in getting frequent, high-precision updates on everything in that space, from storage shelving to heavy machinery. You’d put in an ABI for every X square feet depending on what you need it to do; they can access each other’s data and combine it as well.

The result of a quick pass through a facility. Obviously this would make more sense if you could manipulate it in 3D, as the operator would.

This frequency and the detail which which the drone can inspect and navigate means maintenance can become proactive rather than reactive — you see rust on a pipe or a hot spot on a machine during the drone’s hourly pass rather than days later when the part fails. And if you don’t have an expert on site, the full 3D map and even manual drone control can be handed over to your HVAC guy or union rep.

You can see lots more examples of ABI in action at the Vtrus website. Way too many to embed here.

Lenoff, Moreno, and third co-founder Carlos Sanchez, who brings the industrial expertise to the mix, explained that their secret sauce is really the software — the drone itself is pretty much off the shelf stuff right now, tweaked to their requirements. (The base is an original creation, of course.)

But the software is all custom built to handle not just high-resolution 3D mapping in real time but the means to stream and record it as well. They’ve hired experts to build those systems as well — the 6-person team already sounds like a powerhouse.

The whole operation is self-funded right now, and the team is seeking investment. But that doesn’t mean they’re idle: they’re working with major companies already and operating a “pilotless” program (get it?). The team has been traveling the country visiting facilities, showing how the system works, and collecting feedback and requests. It’s hard to imagine they won’t have big clients soon.

Wingly is carpooling for private planes

Don’t call Wingly the “Uber of the Sky” — Wingly co-fonder Emeric de Waziers would like to nip that little misinterpretation in the bud as the French startup looks to expand into the U.S. If anything, the startup’s mission is more akin to carpooling for small aircrafts, helping pilots fill up empty seats in small […]

Don’t call Wingly the “Uber of the Sky” — Wingly co-fonder Emeric de Waziers would like to nip that little misinterpretation in the bud as the French startup looks to expand into the U.S. If anything, the startup’s mission is more akin to carpooling for small aircrafts, helping pilots fill up empty seats in small passenger planes.

The distinction is an important one, with regard to the company’s ability to operate. After all, allowing private pilots to turn a profit changes the math significantly, both with regard to specific licenses and the company’s ability to operate inside different countries. Ninety-five percent of pilots who use the service don’t have a commercial license.

“What often happens with hobby pilots is they set a budget for the year. They’re going to fly as many times as they can with this money. If they can fly four times cheaper, they can fly four times more. We have many pilots posting what we call ‘flexible flights,’ saying, ‘hey, I’m available for a roundtrip from San Francisco to Tahoe.’ The passenger says they’re interested and they book the flight.”

[gallery ids="1707186,1707183,1707184,1707180"]

Founded in July 2015, the company faced regulatory challenges early on in its native France. It was enough to cause Wingly to relocate operations, setting up shop in Germany in February of the following year. That launch was a sort of a proof of concept for the novel flight booking app. It was successful enough to convince Wingly to take on its home country again, pushing back against French regulatory bodies.

These days, it operates in Germany, France and the UK, with those markets composing 45, 30 and 20 percent of the company’s business, respectively (with the other five percent belonging to various parts of Europe). Wingly’s flight matching service currently hosts around 2,000 passengers a month, with each flight averaging about 1.8 passengers.

It’s not a huge number, but, then, these aren’t huge planes, with the prop and twin-engine crafts sporting between two and six seats each. Profitability for Wingly means pushing into high volume numbers, but the current pace has been successful enough for the startup to begin pursuing the U.S. as its next major market — a move the company plans to begin in earnest as a Battlefield contestant at Disrupt today in San Francisco.

Currently, Wingly takes a 15-percent commission on each flight, along with a €5 charge. The company has also raised €2.5 million including a €2 million seed round back in December. It’s been enough funding to help the company thrive in Europe, but coming to the States will require additional cash, particularly its current launch time frame of early 2019. From there, Wingly hopes to reach numbers comparable to the business it’s doing in Europe by August/September of next year.

Kinta AI uses artificial intelligence to make factories more efficient

Kinta AI aims to make manufacturers smarter about how they deploy their equipment and other factory resources. The company, which is presenting today at TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield in San Francisco, was founded by a team with plenty of experience in finance, tech and AI. CEO Steven Glinert has held management and AI roles at fintech […]

Kinta AI aims to make manufacturers smarter about how they deploy their equipment and other factory resources.

The company, which is presenting today at TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield in San Francisco, was founded by a team with plenty of experience in finance, tech and AI.

CEO Steven Glinert has held management and AI roles at fintech startups, CTO Rob Donnelly is studying the intersection of machine learning and economics as a Ph.D. candidate at Stanford and VP of Engineering Ben Zax has worked at both Facebook and Google.

Glinert told me that when factory owners are making production decisions, they’re usually relying on “dumb software” to decide which machines should be used when, which can result in machines being deployed at the wrong time or in the wrong sequence, or sitting idle when they shouldn’t be. As a result, he said that scheduling errors account for 45 percent of late manufacturing orders.

So Kinta AI tries to solve this problem with artificial intelligence, specifically reinforcement learning. Glinert said the company will run “millions and millions of factory simulations,” where the system gains “a statistical understanding of how your factory works and learning what actions you do to get what result” — and it can then use those simulations to choose the best schedule.

“We run through, not every possible scenario, but we try to go through some of those,” he said.

Glinert added that Kinta AI works with its customers to understand the nuances of each factory. He also compared the technology to Google’s AlphaGo AI and OpenAI’s Dota 2 neural networks — except that instead of using AI to play Go or Dota 2, Gilnert said Kinta AI is utilizing it “to do these detailed production planning decisions that are being made on the factory floor.”

“Not all factories are that dissimilar from each other,” he said — similar to how “if you learned how to play Go, you can easily teach that neural net how to play chess or other game of that type.”

And Kinta AI already has some customers, including chemical manufacturer BASF and a medical device manufacturer.

Ultimately, Glinert said Kinta AI could become a crucial part of the manufacturing process. He predicted that “in the factory of the future, there will be fewer people and more automation, with a vast environment of Internet of Things devices.”

In that environment, he wants Kinta AI to be “the manufacturer execution system.”